When in Ramallah, the U.S. president did not mention any responsibilities for peace owed by his listeners. Instead, he talked about the recent release of U.S. funds “to help the Palestinian Authority bolster its finances.” The only discussion of terrorism when speaking in Ramallah was directed at Hamas. As recently as last month, however, a PA terror group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Israel from Gaza.
Just as the U.S. president told the Israelis that the Arabs deserve their own state and that it is the responsibility of Israelis to give it to them, he made the same points to the Arab Palestinian audience gathered in Ramallah.
The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it. Palestinians deserve to move and travel freely, and to feel secure in their communities. Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope — that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity. Put simply, the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own.
When in Jerusalem, Obama talked about Hizbollah and the Assad regime, and also Iran, as contributing to Israel’s security issues, but nothing about the constant terror attempts by those under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, including the Al Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade, which is responsible for more terrorist attacks than any other Arab Palestinian terrorist group.
Obama proclaimed in Ramallah that the U.S. seeks “an independent, a viable and a contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people.” To the Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, he said the same thing except he left out the word “contiguous.”
And the U.S. president congratulated the PA on its achievements of which he and the U.S. , “as its single largest donor of assistance” is so proud: increased transparency, efficiency, stronger and more professional security forces, and institution building.
JEWISH HOMES, ARAB ROCKETS, BOTH ‘IRRITANTS’
Obama acknowledged that there are disagreements between the two sides – he referred to them as “irritants”: the “Israelis have concerns about rockets flying into their cities at night,” and for the Arab Palestinians it is “the continued settlement activity in the West Bank area.” But, he said,
My argument is even though both sides may have areas of strong disagreement, may be engaging in activities that the other side considers to be a breach of good faith, we have to push through those things to try to get to an agreement — because if we get an agreement then it will be very clear what the nature of that agreement is: there will be a sovereign Palestinian state, a sovereign Jewish state of Israel.
While side-stepping the Arab insistent focus on the problem of settlement building – and this is what gave rise to furious responses in the Arab media – Obama described the core goal in this way: “How do we get sovereignty for the Palestinian people, and how do we assure security for the Israeli people?”
He wants a “broad-based agreement that assures the Palestinians that they have a state, and you have a comprehensive approach that ensures Israel the kind of security they need.”
Apparently the new buzz words will be “sovereignty” and “security.”
The problem, of course, with Obama’s vision is that determining boundaries is a fixed decision – the land doesn’t move, there can’t be any change, while a promise, a commitment, even a sworn statement guaranteeing peace is permeable and depends on the commitment of millions of people – many of whom have rather poor track records – to honor it.
And just in case anyone hoped to pretend that the PA understands negotiations happen when both sides to a conflict agree to make substantial compromises in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory goal, that delusion was put to rest. When Mahmoud Abbas introduced President Obama to the gathered crowd in Ramallah, he spoke briefly but made clear what his intentions are, have been, and will always be.
Abbas stated that his people have suffered from “the calamities of the Nakba (the re-birth of Israel),” that the land has belonged to the Arab Palestinian people” since ancient times,” Jerusalem “the Lady of the Cities” must be the capital of the “independent state of Palestine,” that peace cannot come so long as there are “walls, settlements, arrests, denial of refugee rights,” and that the Arab Palestinian people fully intend to join forces with Hamas, thereby “ending the division [to] achieve the Palestinian reconciliation.”
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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